Gophers Fall to Iowa
September 28, 2013

The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers football team charged on the field with the zeal of a conquering army and promptly laid an egg on the turf on TCF Bank Stadium and lost to Iowa by 23 to 7.

Hindsight reveals that the Gophers never were in the game, a sharp disappointment for many reasons, including another Homecoming loss. Homecoming is becoming a jinx at Minnesota. The Gophers are 1-6 in the past seven years. This compares with six straight Homecoming wins under coach Glen Mason from 2001 through 2006.

This year, in an attempt to return to the winner’s circle, the University designated a home game with Iowa as Homecoming. After all, the Gophers were 10-2 all-time against the Hawkeyes on Homecoming. Minnesota had outscored Iowa by 303 to 112 in those meetings.

The Gophers held a 61-43-2 advantage in its series with Iowa that began with Minnesota’s 42-4 win in 1891 in Iowa City. The Hawks won last season, but Minnesota won in 2010 and 2011 in Minneapolis. In home games against Iowa, the Gophers won 38, lost 15, and tied once.

None of that mattered last Saturday. Minnesota was soundly thrashed on both sides of the line of scrimmage. After a scoreless first quarter, the Hawks took a 17-0 halftime lead and dampened the ensuing Homecoming activities before a sellout crowd announced at 51,382.

When the game was over, Iowa had rushed for 246 yards to only 30 for the Gophers. Relentless running back Mark Weisman gained 150 yards on the ground by dashing through gaping holes created by his offensive line.

Hawkeye quarterback Jake Ruddock completed 15 of 25 passes for 218 yards and had the advantage of facing a timid Gopher pass rush. Minnesota’s quarterback, Philip Nelson, back after missing the previous two games, was forced by circumstance to throw the ball against Iowa, something with which he apparently is not comfortable, although he did throw a 23-tard touchdown pass to Derrick Engle to draw the Gophers to within 20-7 in the third quarter.

Many observers thought they would see Mitch Leidner taking snaps for the home team. They would be disappointed. Leidner quarterbacked Minnesota to wins over Western Illinois and San Jose State, but, against the Hawks, he rode the bench alongside his brother, Matt.

“My call,” was the response of coach Jerry Kill when queried about the absence of Mitch Leidner. “The game didn’t dictate playing Mitch. We couldn’t run the ball. We had to throw the ball. I felt comfortable with Philip.”

In other words, Nelson is a passer (12-for-24 with a pair of interceptions) and Leidner is not.

No quarterback can be effective if his line mates aren’t blocking well, and the Gophers weren’t. “Iowa won the line of scrimmage,” said Kill. “We got out-played and out-coached.”

The Hawkeyes are a “better team than they were last year,” the coach observed. (The Gophers lost that one, 31-13.) “Their defensive line flattened our offensive line. We have to let this game go and move forward.” Minnesota will be moving forward to the Big House to meet Michigan. (The last time the Gophers played Michigan on the road, Minnesota lost by the score of 58 to 0.)

The Hawks simply had better personnel than the Gophers, and the four wins piled up against lesser opponents prior to the Iowa game suddenly lost their significance. If Minnesota is to return to a bowl, a pair of wins have to be scratched out against Big Ten teams before the season draws to a conclusion.

Iowa notes with pride that, since 2006, the Hawkeyes has had nine players start at cornerback in the NFL. During that same period, the Gophers have not had nine former players start at any position in the NFL.

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